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Behind the Podcast : Davia Nelson on Cooking By Ear

Lesson 3 of 3

Post Production: Cooking By Ear

Kristina Loring, Cal Peternell

Behind the Podcast : Davia Nelson on Cooking By Ear

Kristina Loring, Cal Peternell

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Lesson Info

3. Post Production: Cooking By Ear

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2 Production: Cooking By Ear Duration:50:23

Lesson Info

Post Production: Cooking By Ear

So what's your post process like? Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about, so you walked out of Davia's house, what's next from that point all the way to us hearing it on iTunes? Well there's a ritual of like we, we usually don't do this right away, but later that day or that evening, we kind of send each other, what are the best moments that you think of? What are the ones that you think need to be in there? And it's always something that our guest said. You know, like the impression she does of the sprinkler was great, and some of her answers that were really evocative. So that's the first step, and then what do we do? And then I wait a couple days, but try not to wait too long, but give myself a healthy distance so my ego can get out of the way. And then I listen to all the tape. So in that case it was probably like three or four hours of tape. And I either transcribe it or for this episode, the Kitchen Sisters always work in the sound, or that's as much as I know, they do...

n't usually write scripts or transcribe, they're cutting right in the tape. And they've been doing this for a long time so that's easier for them to do. But for this episode we want it to be sort of an homage to them, like in their style, so I'll probably try to mimic their process just to go for it. So I'll start cutting the most magic moments, and then I put our golden moments on a track labeled "gold" and then I pick out all the instructions and start building that timeline of the narrative gold. And then we'll do our test kitchen Yeah we do a recook of the dish. That was my next question, yeah. So you actually cook the dish again without Davia there? Tell us why you do that and how you do that. Well, because we, our session at the guests home, or sometimes they come to my home, tend to be intentionally really rambling and tangential, and we follow every lead down. Like, when they start talking about something we never stop them and say, "Wait, we have to cook the chard" or something. But it ends up with an enormous amount of audio, so in order to squish it down to a 40 minute, 50 minute piece that makes sense, in terms of being able to cook along, you know, cause we have that extra challenge of that it's a recipe and that it needs to happen in real time. We cook it again with the two of us, and we bring in our sound engineer, William Semmens, and he stands in for our guest, and I teach him to cook the dish, but without the tangents. And then we get a timeline of how long it really takes. And we take that opportunity as well, I think we talked about it a little, to get sound that we might've missed. But that's really helpful to kind of figure out, okay here's the marks, the chard is washed, the chard goes in the pan, the eggs are... And then where there's places for the great other content that we got to fit in in those interstices while the water's boiling or while the onions are cooking. Got it. So it sort of mimics if I was cooking in home at the same time with you. Totally. That's our scaffolding, and then I can start plugging in the sonic gems when there's sort of a lull in the cooking, where something is being chopped or sizzling. Got it. So they're not necessarily chronological when you're plugging things in. No, they're kinda all over the place. Yeah, so some stuff I might take from when we're sitting down eating bucatini, I'll plug it in from earlier portion. And in that session also we, and then after the, so then we have that and then Kristina works on plugging everything into that, and then she finds the gaps, we both listen to it and we find the gaps where maybe some instructions were inaudible or incomplete. And so we'll get into a sound studio and go back and record some of that. We'll like just read a list of the ingredients, or we always do an intro, sometimes I'll give a little bit of an overview, or just some little bits that were missed and can be easily inserted in to make it clear. And what was funny about this particular episode is there were moments where she would discuss a story that they were working on, and then she'd say, "Oh, this would be great spot to just edit in "a piece from that story, and then it could," and I was like "Totally, great." She was sort of being my editor, which I love. She couldn't help it, which was really cool to see live. Yeah, so from there, what's the iteration process like? Do you, once you have sort of a first draft of a finished piece, do you both sit down and listen to it? Or what's that next step? You know, one thing that I should mention in an overall way is, for me it's, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, you have to get over the fact that it's horrifying to hear your own voice at first. And you will get over it, and then you just can hear your own voice and it's okay. So there's that. But yeah, then we listen to the rough cut, and we share that with the executive producers of the show, and we tighten it up a little more, and then we send it to a group of people, of friends basically, who are beta testers for us. To encourage them to listen and to actually do the cooking part. And we get more feedback from them. Like, it went too fast, or I didn't have enough time to, like, my thing wasn't done in the same... In some ways everyone's kitchen, this is like the idiosyncratic challenges of our show is everyone's kitchen is a little different, everyone's stove works different, they might have an electric stove. Also if I say medium heat, what that means to me might be something different to you. So we take that feedback into account and try and hit something that's right in the middle, that we think that it'll make sense to everyone. But, as I do in my cookbooks, and we do on this, there's a lot of, you have to taste it make sure it's done. Even though I said it's about 10 minutes, it might be 15 minutes for you, or it might be five minutes. You know, we want people to pay attention while they're cooking, and make some decisions on their own. How big's that test group of people? I don't know, it can go between five and 10 people. I try not to give it to too many people 'cause everyone's different and then we could be making one episode for 100 years. (laughs) And then I also have my own perfectionism. Like in the Big Freedia episode, the whole twerking portion originally was at the very end. 'Cause it was kind of chronological and I was like, "I'm saving the best for last." Don't do that, put your best up front to get it out there first. And it changed the whole energy of the episode when I ended up moving that. And that was kind of like an eleventh hour decision to do that. Your first draft's not your last draft. Okay. And then how does it get from there out into the world? What's the next step after that final round of iterations? Yeah, so for this one, for our second season, we're gonna launch the second season some time at the end of October. I'm not sure of the ordering, but we sort of, when all the episodes are complete, we try to figure out what's the best arch of people to have. Do we want to have our strongest, or most humorous episode first? Do we want to have a more serious episode sort peppered in the middle? So we figure out what makes sense content wise, and then we make a whole webpage for it, we get all the digital assets together. I make sonic, he talks about it in the video, but audio-grams which are just sharable audio content with a picture so that that's an opportunity to use things that I couldn't include in the piece too, that are kind of fun as digital extras. Anyways, so we have each episode has all of the digital elements and we just get that out when we launch, and we upload it to a third party platform and that sends it out to all of the podcast places. Okay, got it. So do you have a specific marketing plan per season that you do, or does it change, or is it always the same process? We have a marketing plan for each episode. More than the season almost. Like, we're sort of hyping up the season, we've been doing a lot more behind the scenes stuff for the second season. And being like, don't worry, the second season's coming, we promise. And showing gifs, and behind the scenes Instagram stories for each recording. But it's really who would be, we like to look at who outside of food media, and food media, but outside of food media would be interested in this episode. Mostly because of the guest that we're interviewing. We're learning about the marketing part. There's so many, everything is, taking the everything approach in terms of promoting it is a good approach it turns out. Everything meaning, do everything you possibly can-- Meaning it needs to be on every social media platform. And also we're working on some strategic partnerships to promote it to just get our listenership up. Could I just make an, oh go ahead. I'm hoping to, being on other peoples podcasts can be a great thing-- Or Creative Live. Or on Creative Live, exactly. Yeah, we love you. Happy to be here. But, you know, I'm gonna be on the Salt & Spine podcast, 'cause I have a new book, they do book review related podcasts. I was just gonna say, you don't feel pressure if like, like Instagram is great, there's very active food community on Instagram. And that's where we get the most engagement, that's where we get most comments, that's where we're getting people to listen to the podcast. I don't feel that way about Facebook, it's kind of, it's not our most engaged group. So don't feel like you don't have to like, "But how can we make Facebook work?" Like, just kill it if it doesn't work for you. Find the things that work for the content of your show. Don't feel like you have to check a bunch of boxes. So I just stress that, 'cause you don't have to be on every social media platform necessarily. Yeah. You mentioned books, Cal. I want you to talk about your newest book. It's called Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta. And the subtitle is: A Vegetarian Cookbook, Kind Of. Because if you think about it, anchovies and pancetta aren't exactly vegetarian. But it's about cooking the way people have eaten, or cooked and eaten, like forever. Which is with a lot of vegetables, and grains, and beans, and a little bit of meat. Thinking about meat as almost like a seasoning. Not like a big pork chop with a little bit of kale, but like a lot of kale, with a little bit of smoked pork in there. Or a caesar salad that has a little anchovy in it. And then so it's three chapters, and there's 20 recipes in each chapter. And I put almonds in there because almonds are sort of the meat of the vegetable world. They have a similar fat level, and they can deliver that kind of flavor as an accent. The cool things about almonds too is you can actually use a lot of them to thicken soups and stews, and you can make desserts that are really almond based, so there's a few desserts in there. Awesome, so the book when it comes out for sure, in two weeks. And I did some of the, I'll brag on myself for a little bit, did a lot of the art in the book. My whole family has done the art for all the books, but for this one... So my wife, and my three sons, and I have done the work, but this one I did a lot more. So I really got into that, like, doing these little watercolors and stuff, of vegetables. Cool, and you have a masters degree right, in fine art? No, I have a bachelors degree. Well, that's-- So it's nice to get back into the visual arts world a little bit with the illustrations-- Yeah, no kidding, how cool is that? So, and as maybe the last question, were there learnings, sort of actionable insights that you learned from your time with Davia, that you'll take forward into your future podcasts? Was there something that you're like, man I really wish that we had done that different? I think just listening to their work has helped us, or certainly helped me, to think about making podcasts in a different way. Again, embracing those in between moments like Davia just talked about. You know, she's kinda fumbley and she drops things, and that brings people in. She also talked about getting lost, don't worry about getting lost. So I feel like those things are takeaways for me from that session. Yeah, and in that particular session we had a plan to make two dishes, and we didn't get to the second dish. And I say in the video, you really have to feel your audience, and understand the tone and the energy of your guest. And it was clear that we need to sit down and put some carbs in our belly, and then we can actually have some more meaningful conversation. Again, a good example of why it's good to have a collaboration, 'cause I didn't get that. I was like, well obviously we have to make the puttanesca, let's start making the next sauce. Kristina's like, "No let's just eat." (laughs) Yeah. So working as a team, what would be an encouragement for people just starting out? A lot of people don't, you know, haven't been a chef at one of the top restaurants in America for 20 years and have that rich, deep, experience to bring into a podcast. What would your encouragement be to somebody just staring out in podcasting? I would say that you do have unique skills, and try and identify those and see how they can, how audio can best communicate those. I would say, yeah, and-- Also there, it's easy to listen to other peoples work, and be like, I wish I sounded more like NPR. Or then everyone sort of mix up that narrative, and is like, I wanna sound more like RadioLIVE, and have more beeps and bops, and banter going back. And then it's like, ugh, now we're over that, and we should just have like an hour and a half of talking with no editing. You know? So just think about your own voice and don't try to sound like anybody else. And embrace the uniqueness of your voice. You don't always have to be trying to appeal to everyone all the time, you know? Some of the best podcasts are super niche, and you don't realize how many people are looking for this very particular intersection that you're covering. So just be true to yourself, follow your intuition. (laughs) But I think it is an amazing moment to be getting into this medium, because there's so much great content. And even things that you think, like I don't know if I'd be interested in that, it doesn't have that much to do with me, it turns out there's a lot that's of interest. So I think there's room for so much in the field. And that's one of the things that really exciting about it.

Class Description

After 22 years as head chef at the iconic Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, Cal Peternell left and teamed up with audio producer Kristina Loring to work on a new venture, a podcast called “Cooking By Ear.” In each episode, Cal visits the kitchen of a famous friend, like Frances McDormand and Alexander Payne, where they talk about everything from food to family to poetry to film. Listeners are encouraged to cook along in real time, so they’ll have a complete meal by the end of the episode.

In this behind the scenes look at the making of an episode, Cal cooks and chats with Davia Nelson, one half of the Kitchen Sisters team, an award-winning radio producer, podcaster, and author whose work focuses on cooking, culture, diversity, and activism.

After 22 years in the iconic Berkeley, California, kitchen, Peternell left Chez Panisse last year and teamed up with audio producer Kristina Loring to focus on a new venture : Cooking By Ear, a podcast in which he visits the kitchens of his iconic friends to cook a dish and chat about everything from food and family to poetry and film.  

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